*Chapter 12: Comparison between Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo’s description of Hangzhou*
In recent times when an individual is going on a trip, it is easy to take video recordings, pictures or even emails that can comfortably talk of one’s travels to friends and family. These two adventurers traveled around 13th and 14th centuries when technology was not like present times but upon return recorded their adventures that influenced and stimulated travel and trade in the regions the duo wrote about. Battuta being a Muslim was on a religious journey exploring the lands of fellow Muslims while Marco was seeking trade opportunities. Battuta’s recordings inspired Muslims pay pilgrimage to mecca coupled with telling them about places, cultural practices and religious events of Islamic world of 14th century, while Marco’s recordings provided explorers with information about Asian regions when planning commercial ventures. The duo although traveled for different reasons greatly influenced trade and travel of the people who read or heard about their stories. Marco in his stay at Hangzhou described it as the finest and most splendid city in the world, while Battuta noted of the city’s size and charm because it sits on a beautiful lake cradled by gentle green hills and cosmopolitan with Muslims, Jewish and Buddhists communities living their not to mention Nestorian Christians who flourished under the Yuan dynasty, (Elliot 2011). This adventurer helps us to revisit the thought that the world is knit together through economics, business, and finance, (Elliot 2011).
*Chapter 16 and 17: European powers accidental discoveries en-route Asia*
This period is when several factors combined to create conditions for voyages to take place with trade, technology, religion and curiosity being the driving force to usher new period in world history. Europe, Asia, and Africa came into increasing contact-making discoveries most important developments. Due to geographical position coupled with astronomical, geographical and mathematical expertise, Spain and Portugal where ideally in a better position to lead in exploration. Being an experienced navigator, Christopher Columbus struck a deal with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinard of acquiring titles over lands he discovered and a tenth of any wealth found. He later proved an incapable administrator thus maintaining discipline among the crew was difficult since many were concerned with finding more gold and slaves than planting crops and building settlements leading to his removal from leadership. Columbus’s voyages had devastating consequences for native populations of the regions conquered decimated by a number of factors resulting from European contact like animals and smallpox being brought in the picture while opening up new world and expansion of empire for Spain.
Portuguese pioneered the search for routes to Asia around Africa with Prince Henry the navigator expeditions stimulating further explorations leading to King John the second appointing Bartholomew Diaz as the leader. Diaz failed to make contact with other explorers who had gone before him prompting the king to remove him from authority upon his return to Lisbon. However, a large expedition led by Pedro Cabral to India made Diaz prominent again when they reached Brazil although he died when the crew encountered a storm upon crossing the Atlantic. Although Diaz never completed the journey, Vasco da Gama continued his efforts, which led to opening up the eastern sea routes to Asia and his success in rounding the Cape of Good Hope becoming enormous stimulus to further explorations. The journeys made by Diaz and da Gama established Portugal dominance around the coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean making it easy for the Vespucci expedition to explore the coast of South America principally Brazil discovering Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Pata. All these explorers had major impacts on the land they voyaged with European spreading Christianity and gaining wealth, land, knowledge and adventure while Portuguese explored Africa, charted sea routes to Asia and claimed Brazil, (George 2017).
*British Indian Ocean Empire*
Control of the Ocean basin corridor held the key to early modern trade and global empire with the early exploratory adventures of the 16th century bringing consistent presence of British in the Indian Ocean. Geographical, cultural and political expansion of the ocean arena brought about the emergence of an empire, which transformed and integrated the Indian Ocean. The arena in order to be dominant forced alliances although Charles the second ascent to throne in 1660 saw reversals to these alliances when he defeated the Dutch in three consecutive wars coupled with improved seafaring technology. After seven years of war in 1763, Britain emerged predominant power in the Indian Ocean. Strategic control and conquering maritime channels was the primary goal of British imperialism, this was made possible by successfully resisting Austrian, Italian, Ottoman and Russian designs from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf. Strategic planning, military maneuvers, and communication coupled with alliances made Britain victoriously control the Indian Ocean channel. The entire composition length and breadth of Indian Ocean were transformed owing to enormous surge in Indian emigration with Indian army being central force in expanding, preserving and policing the entire spectrum, (Chowdhury 2015).
Chowdhury, Amitava. British Indian Ocean Empire, 2015
Elliot, Michael. The Enduring Message of Hangzhou, 2011
George, Enzo. The Age of Exploration. Cavendish Square, 2017